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Brain Implants Communicating Thoughts: What are your thoughts?

Imagine your brain can talk directly for you. Imagine you speak whatever comes to mind without control. Would this be more helpful or harmful? On one hand, you have the courage to express your emotions, but on the other, you might want to take back what you say.

Well, recently, researchers at Duke University have created a speech prosthetic which translates brain signals into speech. This is focused on aiding individuals with neurological disorders. Although this process is still slower than natural speech, the advanced brain sensors and ongoing research shows great potential for enhanced communication abilities.

The device is no bigger than a postage stamp. It contains 128 small sensors which recognizes and reflects brain activity. Duke University has recently developed a small brain implant which contains twice as many sensors at the standard 128 sensors. Neurons can be a grain of sand apart, but can have wildly different activity patterns when coordinating speech. This makes it necessary to distinguish signals from neighboring brain cells to help make accurate predictions about intended speech.

So how exactly does it work?

The task was simple: a listen-and-repeat activity. Participants heard a series of nonsense words, like “ava,” “wug,” or “bip,” and then spoke each one aloud. The device recorded activity from each patient’s speech motor cortex. It coordinated nearly 100 muscles moving the lips, tongue, jaw, and larynx. There was an 84% accuracy with some words such as "gak" but overall, there was a 40% accuracy. However, with higher resolution recordings, this device may evolve and improve.

Although these brain implants can be useful for closing the divide between speech impairments and improve speech therapy, it raises ethical questions.

For example, the researchers were working on making a cordless version of the device. They are now focused on developing the same kind of recording devices, but without any wires. It would allow recording devices to move around and make its way easier into private areas.

Will this brain implant be worth it? Or will it cause a security threat?


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